Is there any automatic liability for death by health complications caused by someone already charged for causing the complication?

I'm aware charges can be revisited but does it have to be brought up again? What is the time limit on that?

Case that made me think:

A few years ago a little girl died after ten years struggling with health problems caused when her parent's car was hit by a speeding car the other driver was, at the time, charged with dangerous driving. After his daughter's death the father then wanted to press charges for death by dangerous driving.

This made me wonder where the law stood on this, a verdict of dangerous driving was given - does that mean the case is considered closed the minute that verdict is passed and if the victim were to die the day after it would need to be reopened? Or would it be automatically reopened with a charge of manslaughter?

  • Pretty much nothing in the criminal justice system is "automatic". A prosecutor has to affirmatively make a decision to take action and file paperwork for anything to happen.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 1, 2018 at 1:57

1 Answer 1


You have asked about "United Kingdom", but I can only answer about England and Wales; the law in Scotland is very different (rather more different in some respects than the difference between E&W and the State of New York).

There is no time limit per se on manslaughter charges; if the police find evidence for a manslaughter charge after 80 years, there is no difficulty (in principle) in bringing a charge against the now-centenarian (provided they are competent to stand trial, and they can get a fair trial, and so on).

However, in the case you mentioned I would have thought the major problem would be a defence of autrefois convict - in other words, the defendant can (usually) only be charged once with charges arising from a particular set of facts. It is just possible that the subsequent death constitutes a new fact which allows a new prosecution. On the other hand, the rule for murder used to be that if the victim survived a year and a day then it wasn't murder (even if they then died of their injuries).

Finally, the case certainly would not be reopened with a charge of manslaughter. It would be "causing death by dangerous driving", which is a very different offence.


My thanks to ohwilleke whose comment about the "year and a day" rule prompted me to do a little research, and discover the Law Reform (Year and a Day Rule) Act 1996. Section 2(2) clearly covers the present case (in both legs), and says that the perpetrator can be re-prosecuted, but only with the permission of the Attorney General.

The act is very brief, and I encourage you to read it all. (And incidentally, does not apply to Scotland.)

  • I'm pretty sure that the year and a day rule has been abrogated.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 1, 2018 at 1:56

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